Extraordinary experiences can facilitate radical exploration of metaphysical topics such as the nature of mind, the self, epistemology of perception, consciousness, the status of ideas as potentials and archetypes, the origins of value, and the fundamentals of cosmology. Filmed at Breaking Convention 2017 – 4th International Conference on Psychedelic Consciousness University of Greenwich London, June 30th-July 2nd 2017
Late Summer 2017
At the end of June Lenny presented his paper in the philosophy and mysticism session at the Breaking Convention 2017 conference at Greenwich University : “Besides bringing a renewed perspective to topics such as the mind-body problem, the nature of experience, and of space and time, ecstatic experience can keep us from prematurely closing accounts with reality, per William James’s caution, on many other topics of philosophical and metaphysical investigation.”
Looking forward to our upcoming trip to Seattle, where Lenny’s presentation “Amplified Subject” will consider, from a Whiteheadian perspective, some of the metaphysical dimensions that are revealed during intense nonordinary states, including the death-rebirth experience, the relativity of lived time, the presence of the past, and the intrinsic value of each moment.
Keywords: Psychedelics; Mystical Experience; Stanislav Grof; LSD; Robin Carhart-Harris
A Metaphysical Perspective
Sanislav Grof has combined the European tradition of depth psychology with William James’s American pluralism under the rubric of Transpersonal Psychology. He captures the final vision of Maslow, the integration of spirituality into the psychological picture of mind and body.
To understand and explicate Grof’s work fully requires invoking a metaphysical perspective that draws significantly on the Platonic tradition embraced and developed by Whitehead. It requires a model of the self that is epochal and polar, rather than an epiphenomenon of neurological matter or a particle of Mind.
From Lenny’s paper, Peace in Society and in Psychotherapy, in “Recent Advances in the Creation of a Process-Based Worldview,” edited by Lukasz Lamza and Jakub Dziadkowiec, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016.
Peace in Society and Psychotherapy
Lenny’s paper, Peace in Society and in Psychotherapy, which he presented at the 9th International Whitehead Conference Conference in September, 2013 Krakow, Poland has been published in “Recent Advances in the Creation of a Process-Based Worldview” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2016):
From Michael Weber’s introduction to the book: “… Leonard Gibson’s “Peace in Society and in Psychotherapy” evokes the question of peace from the dark standpoint of trauma studies. Peace is a social ideal but also a psychological one; history and anamnesis sometimes carry the same traumatic burden while diplomacy and psychotherapy have to deal with similar conundrums. In a Whiteheadian universe, the continuity between the approaches is anchored in the same ontological structure: any event is actually part of a string or society of events. Could the therapist act as a cosmic diplomat?”
From the book jacket: “Process thought is an important component of contemporary philosophy. Alfred North Whitehead’s organic philosophy has a special place in the landscape of process thinking, being detailed, precise and well-thought, and at the same time extremely visionary and far-reaching. The global community of process thinkers includes physicists, biologists, doctors, political scientists, educators, activists, philosophers, theologians and other people devoted to rethinking their disciplines in the light of process philosophy.
This volume presents the cutting edge in the creation of a process worldview. Leading scholars from all over the world gathered to discuss how process thinking can inspire us to rethink our lives. Precise philosophical language and a unifying vision are applied to core issues, such as politics, society, education and religion. The book represents a bold move from academic philosophy into the realm of actual human lives.”
The evolution of human kind depends on recognizing that the notion of guilt is a useless artifact of human development. By understanding this personally, we can move towards the necessary collective awareness.
Creativity is the difference between simply repeating the past and experiencing catharsis. If we are not being creative, then we are in danger of being destructive. Breathwork and other sacred technologies offer the potential for enhancing creativity, because of the extraordinary experiences they foster. Cathartic experience can lessen the force of traumatic psychological constraints and also goes further in offering possibilities for transcending habitual ways of perception.
Fear of awakening
In his recent book, Sacred Knowledge, William Richards considers the broadening revival of psychedelic research from his perspective of fifty years. Early in his career he worked at Johns Hopkins with Walter Pahnke and Stan Grof and more recently with Roland Griffiths.
Richards begins his chapter “Fear of Awakening” with a quote from Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Von Schelling, a German philosopher of the early nineteenth century, who presaged elements of both psychoanalytic theory and existentialism.
Schelling said: “The philosopher who knows his calling is the physician who … seeks to heal with gentle, slow hand the deep wounds of human consciousness. The restoration is all the more difficult since most people do not want to be healed at all and, like, unhappy patients, raise an unruly outcry if one even approaches their wounds.” Schelling’s idea predated the psychoanalytic theory of resistance by almost 100 years.
Schelling also considered the metaphysical question: Why is there anything at all? Why not nothing? This articulation eventually gave rise to the central issue of existentialism – the notion that one’s existence is the result of one’s acts of choice.
Taken together, these reflections suggest that the reason we resist focusing our attention on ourselves is because the possibility of nothingness is terrifying to contemplate.
In his chapter Richards writes: “One reliable effect of visionary and mystical states of consciousness is that they awaken us once again to more fully experience awe. Instead of taking life for granted as we perform our routines in everyday existence, suddenly the very fact that we are at all may seem like a miracle…. Much as we like to affirm our independence in everyday life, it remains true that, when we eventually find ourselves lying on our deathbeds, we all have to come to terms with an ultimate dependency on realities far greater than our egos.”
A recent issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine contains the peer-reviewed article, “Measure of Significance of Holotropic Breathwork in the Development of Self-Awareness.” The theoretical conclusion of the study, as measured by a battery of tests and results analyzed statistically is that:
Holotropic Breathwork can induce very beneficial temperament changes, which can have positive effects on development of character, measured as an increase in self-awareness.
The full study can be viewed here: Measure of Significance of Holotropic Breathwork in the Development of Self-Awareness.
Additional research results from other studies are available in the Grof Holotropic Breathwork community web site Research Section under Journals.